At this time last year, a small group of young professionals was educating the Greater Peoria region about “Light It Up – Murray Baker Bridge,” an initiative through Illinois Senator Chuck Weaver’s 1,000 Pounds Project. We had created an advocacy group and spent a year trying to rally the region around the relighting of the Murray Baker Bridge. Because the bridge was set to close for construction, it was the perfect opportunity to allow those lights to shine once again… but this time with a whole new level of brilliance.
Connecting the Region
I’m thrilled to be back with an update on this project. In November 2019, we shared our final project report with a room full of professionals at Bradley University—and announced that the decorative lighting in fact was budgeted into the bridge construction costs, thanks to a grant from the Illinois Special Bridges program. By creating a platform to educate the public, we helped get the right people in the right rooms talking about progressive things.
Lighting a bridge might sound quite simple, but it required years of planning, negotiating, and building partnerships in both the private and public sectors to make this project a reality. The number of organizations, companies and agencies that worked together behind the scenes to bring this accomplishment to fruition was rather impressive. I’d try to name them all, but would undoubtedly miss someone.
By now, you know that construction is complete and the bridge is open once again. But if you haven’t been following us on social media or been down on the riverfront at night, you may have missed the new LED decorative lighting system, which is now fully operational. From an array of color options, to ebbs and flows of movement, the possibilities of this new visual landmark are endless.
So the bridge is lit. Now what?
An Interactive Billboard
While the biggest part of this project is complete, there is more to come. Phase two is intended to ensure those lights don’t go dark again. From maintenance to operations, there is a cost to sustaining the system. Someone has to “flip the switch” and take care of the electric bill, for example. And just like last time, while there are many stakeholders, the City of Peoria has the contract with IDOT.
In our proposed plan, we took a page out of Louisville, Kentucky’s book and suggested implementing special lighting requests—allowing the region to select which colors are displayed, when and why. Think of it as an interactive billboard. The community can then turn to social media or our website to learn more about the reason behind the colors, if any.
We’ve already seen the bridge lit for Election Day and now into the holiday season. But with a programmer behind the scenes and public requests being made, we could see some truly magical displays in the future.
Ashley Schreck leads the 1,000 Pounds Project Team to light up the Murray Baker Bridge.